The Fab Four MeetsDuring classes in our first year at Walden in 2012, Mariana Daniela Torchia and I were in the first of many classes together since we were on the same education track. We had both been accepted into the online PhD program in Public Health.  Mariana’s concentration was in Clinical Nutrition as she is a registered dietician and my concentration was in Epidemiology since I was in infection control. Taking one course a quarter projected into three years of classes and then going into the doctoral shell to write the dissertation. For some mysterious reason I was drawn to Mariana. Perhaps it was because she was the antithesis of me, outgoing, adventurous, enjoying the public attention she generated. Maybe also, it was a God thing. He knew what was going to happen later and the friendship had to have a start in order for there to be fulfillment later. We began emailing to our personal emails in addition to our classroom assignments with the occasional phone call. In our second year, Mariana took a leave from schooling to take care of her father, who was terminally ill. As happens many times, I thought it would probably be the end of her quest for her PhD. When she emailed me many months later to say she had returned to the program, I began to realize the tenacity and strength of this incredible lady. When I heard from her, I was already in my second quarter of my dissertation shell. She was several quarters behind me but because I became trapped in the Internal Review Board for ten months, she was able to catch up and graduated only a couple of months after I did. Being ahead of her, I was able to be a resource for her.

When it came time for me to have my graduation and party, I invited her to come from Los Angles to Dallas to be with me to celebrate. She knew Dr. Jimenez, my dissertation chair, from classes he had instructed. Dr. J was almost her chair as well, but because of his load of dissertation students, when it was time for her to begin, he could not accept her. She and Maria had also connected in classes and emailed and talked on the phone. I actually knew what Mariana looked like from her videos of her performing her own songs on U-tube. But it was not until the weekend of the party that we actually met for the first time. During the weekend, I asked her why we had become friends. Her eyes twinkled as the corners of her mouth broke into a wide smile, “Because you would not leave me alone.”  It was that God thing, can’t fight it.

Mariana is still working at a clinic in Los Angles helping her clients to establish beneficial eating habits. She has authored a book that gives helpful suggestions for living a nutritious healthy lifestyle. Please see her website,  Continuing to expand her creative abilities, she has produced several YouTube videos of herself preforming songs she has written.

When I started my first quarter in my dissertation shell, I was the only student in the shell. It was just Dr. Jimenez, my dissertation chair, and me. So once I posted the weekly assignment, I was finished for the week and could return to working on my prospectus, which is a short paper outlining the study I wanted to do as part of my dissertation. It was a little lonely not having other students in class so when Irene Adekunbi Campbell posted in the classroom at the beginning of the second quarter; I was delighted to have a classmate. Irene and I had been in several previous classes and almost immediately began emailing each other and talking on the phone. Having completed the first quarter, again I could serve as a resource. Just as with Mariana and later with Maria, I began to know Irene the person as well as the student. We talked many times of meeting in person and knew one day that dream would happen. Since she lives in Maryland and me in Dallas, travel would be involved. Somewhere during the first year in dissertation shell, Irene took to the habit of calling me mama. I knew she was using the moniker affectionately and it warmed my heart we were so close. I called her my daughter.

I had told her I wanted to have a graduation party and was thinking how nice it would be if Dr. J could come and do a graduation ceremony. The more we discussed, the more the plans crystalized. At the party, Dr. J could graduate us both. All we needed was a date. One morning Irene called excitedly. She would be coming to Dallas the week of March 8, Wednesday, through Sunday, March 12, for The National School Nurse Conference being held in Dallas. She would have her flight and room paid for so it seemed the date should be Saturday evening, March 11. Having the date propelled a cascade of actions, asking Dr J to officiate, asking Mariana and Maria to come, arranging for the restaurant, getting out invitations, and printing up programs.

I had no idea what Irene looked like when I picked her up at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. Despite having a sign in the front of my car with her name on it, I still managed to drive past her the first time around but on the second pass, there she was. I stopped the car, jumped out and we fell into each other’s arms, the fulfillment of a dream.

Irene is still working as a school nurse and works as a registered nurse on the weekends at a local hospital to keep her skills sharp. She also somehow manages to teach at a local university in their nursing program. Irene is also involved with, an organization to help African, Latin American, and Caribbean countries. She is also in the planning stages of a second book about the religious journey of her life.

Maria E. Natal-Gopin came into the dissertation shell in the spring of 2016. Both Irene and I took her under our wings so to speak to help ease some of the newness of the process. It was evident from her very first post, Maria was eager to learn and I could sense she was a lot like me, energetic, goal driven, full of tenacity, that A personality. We were also both registered nurses so that gave us another common bond. It was only a couple of weeks before Maria was calling to ask a question and as happens, we gradually began to discuss private lives as well. It was while I was getting to know each of these ladies that I began to realize the hardships and trials they had conquered in order to be here now working on their PhDs. Or I should say I learned of some of their struggles. It was not until each of them had submitted their chapters to me that I realized the full extent of what these brave ladies had overcome as they held nothing back.

As with the other three, I met Maria for the first time when I picked her up from the airport. Again, I had no idea what she looked like, but texted her to be on the lookout for a white impala. Her name on the dashboard also was a way for her to know who I was. Maria graduated six months after the rest of us and is now the Director of Education at a hospital in New Jersey, jiggling work and caring for her family.

The Fab Four Meets